DNF Review: Scandal Never Sleeps by Shayla Black and Lexi Blake

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
DNF Review:  Scandal Never Sleeps by Shayla Black and Lexi BlakeScandal Never Sleeps by Lexi Blake, Shayla Black
Series: The Perfect Gentlemen #1
Published by Berkley on August 18, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Fiction, Romance, Romantic Suspense, Suspense
Pages: 400
Format: eARC
DNF
From the New York Times bestselling authors of the Masters of Ménage series . . .

They are the Perfect Gentlemen of Creighton Academy: privileged, wealthy, powerful friends with a wild side. But a deadly scandal is about to tear down their seemingly ideal lives . . .

Maddox Crawford’s sudden death sends Gabriel Bond reeling. Not only is he burying his best friend, he’s cleaning up Mad’s messes, including his troubled company. Grieving and restless, Gabe escapes his worries in the arms of a beautiful stranger. But his mind-blowing one-night stand is about to come back to haunt him . . .

Mad groomed Everly Parker to be a rising star in the executive world. Now that he’s gone, she’s sure her job will be the next thing she mourns, especially after she ends up accidentally sleeping with her new boss. If only their night together hadn’t been so incendiary—or Gabe like a fantasy come true . . .

As Gabe and Everly struggle to control the heated tension between them, they discover evidence that Mad’s death was no accident. Now they must bank their smoldering passions to hunt down a murderer—because Mad had secrets that someone was willing to kill for, and Gabe or Everly could be the next target . . .

I had to give up on this book at 58% after nearly giving up on it at 25%. I understand that as the first book in the series, there needs to be a certain level of background setup, but it made for an incredibly slow start. Meanwhile the hero and heroine seemed to be going through a romantic suspense checklist, checking off each thing expected in such a story. One weekend no-names stand leading to the big reveal of their individual relationships to the murder victim – check. Someone still trying to kill them and/or cover up the trail to the murderer – check. Wild passionate sex even as all this is going on – check. Heroine getting the entirely wrong idea about the hero’s motives just after thinking how she was going to trust him with everything she was planning to do without him to find the murderer – check. And that’s when I checked out. This book is more suspense than romance, and that makes it not a book for me. Your mileage, as always, may vary.

DNF

Review: Mistress of Pleasure by Delilah Marvelle

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
Review:  Mistress of Pleasure by Delilah MarvelleMistress of Pleasure by Delilah Marvelle
Series: School of Gallantry #1
Published by Self-Published on July 1, 2015
Genres: Erotic Romance, Fiction, Historical Romance, Romance
Pages: 256
Format: eARC
Goodreads
four-stars
Granddaughter of a renowned courtesan, Maybelle Maitenon has no interest in her grandmother's school in London where gentlemen receive instruction--in the art of seduction. Her only desire in life is to remain independent and free from men and their overbearing expectations. But when Maybelle lays eyes on the Duke of Rutherford, who is well-known for his gentlemanly ways, she can't resist. Neither she or the duke are prepared for what their attraction is about to do not only to their sanity but their hearts.

WARNING: This book contains strong language and sexual content that may cause respectable people to swoon.

This quirky, sexy and scandalous Regency/Victorian Historical Romance is part of a series but can be read as a stand alone.

As a romance reader and reviewer, I’m always interested to see what happens with books I’ve read and loved before that are later reissued with extensive changes and plot expansions. MISTRESS OF PLEASURE was originally released in 2008 as the introduction to the School of Gallantry series, featuring 5 English lords needing lessons in love from a retired French courtesan. Now that rights to this book have reverted to the author, it’s back in a longer and even more entertaining version that better connects the book to those which followed it.

Maybelle’s never been accepted by the ton because of her beloved grandmother’s previous profession, and would rather spend her life exploring rocks and dirt in Egypt than risk her heart on any man. But when a moment of passion threatens to derail all her plans, only her grandmother can help her find the way to a love Maybelle never dreamed could exist.

Much like Maybelle, Edmund has sworn never to let love ruin his life, especially with his father as the worst possible example. But Edmund and Maybelle are better matched than either suspects, each chasing and fleeing each other in turn before the students at the School of Gallantry take matters into their own hands to get them together for good.

Although I had enjoyed the original version of MISTRESS OF PLEASURE, I found this new expanded and updated incarnation even more entertaining. We get more explicit connections to the series as a whole, most notably with regard to the final book which was released earlier this year. Indeed, there is so much more material here related to that story that I was glad I’d already read it, as I might have felt somewhat spoiled at seeing parts of it here first.

My favorite expanded scenes involved Edmund and his mother, and the additional insight we got into why the actions of Edmund’s father had been so devastating. If Maybelle hadn’t instigated their first unorthodox meeting, both she and Edmund would have ended up alone and unhappy, and that helped me be patient with their assorted antics as they finally figured out they belonged together.

The School of Gallantry is one of my favorite historical romance series and appears to be getting even better now with this first reissued book. Even if you’ve read MISTRESS OF PLEASURE before, you should definitely read it again. I’m glad I did, and I can’t wait to see what Delilah Marvelle does with the other older books in the series.

four-stars

SecretPleasurebyLoraLeigh

Review: Secret Pleasure by Lora Leigh

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
Review:  Secret Pleasure by Lora LeighSecret Pleasure by Lora Leigh
Series: Bound Hearts #13
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on August 18th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Erotic Romance, Erotica, Fiction, Romance, Suspense
Pages: 304
Format: eARC
Goodreads
two-half-stars
In Secret Pleasure by #1 New York Times bestselling author Lora Leigh, Sebastian and Shane De Loren were born to love Alyssa Hampstead. No other woman on Earth can burn for them, ignite with passion between them, the way Alyssa does. But after three sensual months of pleasure come to a crashing halt, Sebastian and Shane are left fighting their powerful family, risking it all to have Alyssa one more time... Alyssa has closed off her heart. A senator's daughter in the political spotlight, she'd rather be quiet and safe than feel the emotional intensity Sebastian and Shane roused within her years ago. But when the sexy cousins blaze their way back into her life, Alyssa cannot help but succumb to the heady pleasures the two men can give her. And as an unknown enemy draws near, Alyssa will need Sebastian and Shane to protect her...and satisfy every forbidden craving...

It’s almost impossible to accurately summarize everything that is wrong with this book without revealing any major spoilers. I’m heartbroken because this has always been one of my favorite erotic romance series.

Full review available at Night Owl Reviews.

two-half-stars

Review: Brown-Eyed Girl by Lisa Kleypas

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
Review:  Brown-Eyed Girl by Lisa KleypasBrown-Eyed Girl by Lisa Kleypas
Published by Little, Brown Book Group Limited, St. Martin's Press on August 11th 2015
Genres: Fiction, Romance
Pages: 304
Format: eARC
Goodreads
four-stars
Wedding planner Avery Crosslin may be a rising star in Houston society, but she doesn't believe in love--at least not for herself. When she meets wealthy bachelor Joe Travis and mistakes him for a wedding photographer, she has no intention of letting him sweep her off her feet. But Joe is a man who goes after what he wants, and Avery can't resist the temptation of a sexy southern charmer and a hot summer evening.

After a one night stand, however, Avery is determined to keep it from happening again. A man like Joe can only mean trouble for a woman like her, and she can't afford distractions. She's been hired to plan the wedding of the year--a make-or-break event.

But complications start piling up fast, putting the wedding in jeopardy, especially when shocking secrets of the bride come to light. And as Joe makes it clear that he's not going to give up easily, Avery is forced to confront the insecurities and beliefs that stem from a past she would do anything to forget.

The situation reaches a breaking point, and Avery faces the toughest choice of her life. Only by putting her career on the line and risking everything--including her well-guarded heart--will she find out what matters most.

BROWN-EYED GIRL might be one of the most anticipated romances of 2015, as it’s the long awaited follow-up to the popular Travis Family series by Lisa Kleypas. I’ve read and enjoyed several of her historical romances but as hard as it might be to believe, this is my very first Lisa Kleypas contemporary read. So while the target audience for BROWN-EYED GIRL might be all the readers who’ve been waiting for Joe Travis to get his own HEA, I came into this story with no expectations whatsoever, and I think that might be why it was ultimately a good read for me.

Our titular heroine is Avery Crosslin, a woman who has had to rise above so many personal obstacles to achieve success in her job, if not in her personal life. Much like the terrible example set by her own parents, Avery has been horribly disappointed in love. But instead of letting that ruin her life entirely, she’s set aside the entire notion of a romantic relationship with anyone, preferring to channel all her energy into becoming the best wedding planner Houston ever had. When she stumbles across a gorgeous and friendly guest at her latest high-stress wedding event, it’s all she can do to allow herself just one perfect night of passion with a man she never expects to see again. But when he’s determined to go on as they’ve begun, Avery has to reconsider everything she thinks she’s learned about success, happiness, and love itself.

Even though I had no familiarity with the Travis family members before reading BROWN-EYED GIRL, their history was presented quite well throughout the book. In fact it was so thorough that I occasionally wondered if readers with greater knowledge of the series might become annoyed with all the explanations. In any case, I appreciated the attention to necessary detail, and I was never lost as a new reader to the series.

What I did find troubling in BROWN-EYED GIRL was the reliance on Avery’s intermittent resistance to Joe’s pursuit as a plot device for the bulk of the story. After all, if Avery gives in too soon to what she knows is true – that Joe loves her and she loves him – then the book would be over. So most of the interaction between them boils down to Joe making an overture, Avery seeming to accept it, and then Avery getting scared and running away again (figuratively and literally). I was honestly starting to wonder why Joe was so determined to win her over. We really don’t get much information about why he’s so attracted to Avery, yet he continues to press his suit right up until the moment when she proposes the possibility of a long-distance relationship. It’s only then when we see him waver, and when Avery finally realizes what she’s about to throw away, finally giving us the HEA we and they both need.

When Joe and Avery were together and fully present in their intermittent moments of genuine affection is when BROWN-EYED GIRL had me hooked, and that’s what kept me reading until the very end. I’ll leave it to others to determine whether this book works as a worthy follow-up to the rest of the Travis Family series. But as a standalone story, it’s a perfectly nice romance on its own merits and I enjoyed reading it on those terms.

four-stars

Review: Make You Burn by Megan Crane

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
Review: Make You Burn by Megan CraneMake You Burn by Megan Crane
Series: Deacons of Bourbon Street #1
Published by Random House Publishing Group on August 4th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Contemporary Women, Erotic Romance, Erotica, Fiction, General, Romance
Pages: 217
Goodreads
four-stars
Meet the Deacons of Bourbon Street, bad boy bikers who are hell on wheels—and heaven between the sheets. Megan Crane revs up an irresistible new series co-written with Rachael Johns, Jackie Ashenden, and Maisey Yates.   Sean “Ajax” Harding’s oaths are inked into his skin. Once second-in-command of the Deacons of Bourbon Street motorcycle club, he left New Orleans to protect the brotherhood, and only the death of his beloved mentor, Priest Lombard, could lure him back. Walking into the old hangout gives him a familiar thrill—especially when he gets an eyeful of the bar’s delectable new owner. A wild ride with her is just the welcome Ajax needs. Then he realizes that she’s Priest’s daughter, all grown up and totally off limits.   Sophie Lombard loved her father, not his lifestyle. She’s done with bikers . . . until Ajax roars into town—arrogant, tough, and sexy as ever. And although he treats her like the Catholic schoolgirl he once knew, Sophie’s daydreams tend to revolve around sin. With the very real possibility of heartbreak looming, Sophie knows better than to get too close to an outlaw. But every touch from Ajax is steamier than the Louisiana bayou—and heat like this may just be worth getting burned.   Includes a special message from the editor, as well as an excerpt from another Loveswept title.

MAKE YOU BURN is the first book in the Deacons of Bourbon Street, a new motorcycle club romance series co-written by some of my favorite romance authors. In this first book, we are introduced to the world of the Deacons, a once infamous New Orleans MC that is now nearly defunct after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. The sad event bringing its remaining members back to the Big Easy is the sudden death of its charismatic leader, Priest Lombard. Yet it’s Priest’s daughter Sophie who immediately distracts the club’s VP Ajax as he rides into town for the first time since Priest exiled him ten long years ago.

Sophie is doing everything she can not to collapse in the face of her father’s death and seeing the dangerously sexy Ajax back in her father’s bar is exactly what she doesn’t need. But Ajax has his own ideas about what she needs and it isn’t long before they begin a torrid affair that threatens to take them both down a path neither one had ever planned.

If you love MC romance, then you will enjoy MAKE YOU BURN. I don’t pretend to know much about how an actual MC operates, nor have I ever watched Sons of Anarchy, but there was enough here for me to understand the world of the Deacons and how they fit into the New Orleans hierarchy. There’s plenty of world building here to set things up for the rest of the series, which includes the introduction of three secondary characters who are clearly going to be the starring heroes of their own books to come.

But really, the greatest appeal of MAKE YOU BURN for me wasn’t the slow-developing suspense plot, nor how Ajax and Sophie were eventually able to work through all the issues that threatened to keep them apart. It was every intimate scene that featured just the two of them from the beginning of the book through the “one year later” epilogue. Sex between Ajax and Sophie is as down and dirty as any you could find in erotic romance, and it was all I could do not to fan myself each time they came together. Even when they ventured into public sex that I’d imagine would get them arrested in the real world, I was riveted to the point of becoming resentful when the actual plot intruded.

If you love a dirty talking hero and a heroine who gives as good as she gets in the bedroom (and the living room floor and the bar and the alley outside the bar…) then MAKE YOU BURN will not disappoint. Everything beyond that is just a bonus. I only hope that the other authors in this series can keep up with the high bar that’s been set in this first book, and I can’t wait to see how they do it.

four-stars

JustOneLiebyKyraDavis

Review: Just One Lie by Kyra Davis

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
Review:  Just One Lie by Kyra DavisJust One Lie by Kyra Davis
Published by Simon and Schuster on July 28th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Contemporary Women, Fiction, General, Romance, Suspense, Thrillers
Pages: 368
Goodreads
four-stars
In the instant international sensation Just One Night, sensible Kasie Fitzgerald unleashed her passions—and found herself—through an explosive affair. In Just One Lie, we meet Kasie’s wild and tortured sister, whose impulsivity and lack of self-control has set off a chain of events that changes her family forever.Melody Fitzgerald is the opposite of the “perfect” daughter. The lead singer of an indie rock band, she is impulsive and creative, with a rebellious streak that both defines her and becomes her greatest enemy. Her lover, the enticing and unpredictable Ash, shares her free spirit and penchant for trouble. On the face of it, he seems to be her perfect match. So why is she so drawn to her soft spoken, reliable drummer, Brad Witmer? How can a man who wears polo shirts and reads the financial section of the paper be of any interest to her at all? And why on earth does someone like that appear to be so captivated by her? Before she knows it, Melody finds herself on a path of self-discovery, passion, and affairs of the heart. But will a dark secret from her past derail it all? Or will its exposure be the very thing that unburdens her heart and allows her to seek a future with the one man who loves her completely?

This review contains spoilers for JUST ONE NIGHT, the first book in this series. You can read JUST ONE LIE as a standalone. In fact, I think you might prefer it that way.

I still remember how blown away I was by Kyra Davis’s fantastic JUST ONE NIGHT serial. It was only three parts, but the plot was paced perfectly between them, with a relentless knife-edge tension that I rarely see in romance stories that aren’t dependent on physical threats to the heroine. So when I heard there was a follow-up book about that heroine’s doomed older sister, I was more excited than I probably should have been. Because although I did enjoy reading JUST ONE LIE, it was in spite of my elevated expectations, not because of them.

In the previous story, JUST ONE NIGHT, our heroine Kasie Fitzgerald had lived her whole life to her parents’ extreme specifications, never allowing herself to step out from behind their imposed facade of the good girl who never makes mistakes. After all, Kasie’s sister Melody made all the wrong decisions and that’s why she’s dead. Or is she? Because as we eventually discover in the opening chapters of JUST ONE LIE, Melody might be dead, but Mercy is very much alive, and trying desperately to stay that way.

Now the man who helped kill Melody, as Mercy keeps telling us, is back in her life and wants to pick up where they left off. Ash doesn’t seem like the best choice for Mercy but she can’t resist the pull, even as she’s becoming more drawn to Brad, the new drummer in her band. Which man will help Mercy heal from her tragic past, and which man will drag her back to the grave she thought she’d buried Melody in for good?

I’ll confess that although I knew this book was about Kasie’s sister, I was a bit lost at the beginning. Once I figured out what was going on, I was able to settle down and enjoy what turned out to be something completely different than what I had expected. Because unlike JUST ONE NIGHT, JUST ONE LIE is a New Adult romance in every respect, and I was not prepared for that. Mercy made terrible choices as Melody, and continues to do so as Mercy for a major portion of this story. Ash was the guy who helped get Melody evicted from her home and life, yet she wants to him to be the one who saves her now. Brad is clearly the better choice, yet there there’s no clear path between them and real happiness either. Between the drama and a series of flashbacks and flash-forwards, it was sometimes only my need to see how all this tied back into Kasie’s story that kept me going. But once the book stopped jumping around in time and began its final approach to Mercy’s HEA, I was all in.

Although I did enjoy reading JUST ONE LIE, I honestly think I would have liked it more as a completely standalone book. The connection to the previous book set up assumptions that weren’t correct or fair. And that’s not the fault of the story, which is a touching romance about two people who eventually learn the right lessons from their past mistakes so they can be truly happy together. If you love dramatic angsty New Adult romance, JUST ONE LIE is what you want. It’s not JUST ONE NIGHT, but it’s still a good read.

four-stars

Review: Love Under Three Valentinos by Cara Covington

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
Review: Love Under Three Valentinos by Cara CovingtonLove Under Three Valentinos by Cara Covington
Series: Lusty, Texas #27
Published by Siren Bookstrand on June 19, 2015
Genres: BDSM, Contemporary, Erotic Romance, Fiction, Romance
Format: eBook
Goodreads
four-half-stars

If you’ve never read any books from the publisher Siren-Bookstrand before, you might not realize that they publish dozens of different erotic romance series featuring small towns with interesting names and a preponderance of ménage relationships. (Although many of these relationships involve blood siblings and/or cousins, the standard Siren-Bookstrand disclaimer that there is no sexual relationship or touching for titillation between relatives always holds.) Not everyone will appreciate a visit to Lusty, Texas, or Bliss, Colorado, or Luscious, Kansas, but for those who do, these books can be as enjoyable as any other long-running small town romance series.

Of all the Siren-Bookstrand series I’ve been reading for the past few years, I have to say Cara Covington’s Lusty, Texas is one of the best. It’s hard to believe, but LOVE UNDER THREE VALENTINOS is the twenty-seventh book set in the tiny but fascinating fictional Texas town of Lusty. You would think after all those books that this series would have regressed long ago to mere formula and cardboard characters, and yet I was pleased to discover a story that is easily one of my favorites. I’m fairly certain it can work as a standalone, but since I’ve read all the previous books, I might not be the best judge.

Faithful readers of this series already met bounty hunter Kat Lawson in the last book when she helped capture the latest villain bent on vengeance when he was foolish enough to show up in Lusty. What we saw back then only hinted at the friendship she’d already established with the Jessop brothers back in Los Angeles, but it was obvious the men were hoping for more with her one day. Now that her job has gotten her noticed by L.A.’s most dangerous gang leader, Kat realizes that she needs the three brothers more than she’d like to admit, and not just to keep her alive.

I’m a huge fan of this series, so I was almost certain that I’d enjoy LOVE UNDER THREE VALENTINOS but what I found surprising was how the suspense plot was more developed and interwoven with the romance than in the past several books. I’m always skittish about when the heroine is placed in physical danger as a way to bring her closer to her romantic interest, but the threat to Kat is balanced well with how her desire for the Jessop brothers becomes something she can no longer ignore. Of course there’s no uncertainty on the part of the Jessops, as we already know by now that when men in the extended Kendall-Jessop family find their woman, they fall instantly, completely, and for good. But that’s a comfort here when Kat needs that unconditional love to find the healing she’s been missing in her life. Unrealistic? Likely. Fun to read? Definitely.

In any case, if you love a small town romance and you’d like to mix it up with ménage and just a touch of BDSM, then LOVE UNDER THREE VALENTINOS is for you. As the saying goes, people who like that sort of thing will find this to be the sort of thing they like. And I liked it quite a lot.

four-half-stars

CallonMebyRoniLoren

Review: Call On Me by Roni Loren

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
Review: Call On Me by Roni LorenCall on Me by Roni Loren
Series:
Published by Penguin on July 7th 2015
Genres: BDSM, Contemporary, Contemporary Women, Erotic Romance, Erotica, Fiction, Romance
Pages: 448
Goodreads
four-stars
The new Loving on the Edge novel by the New York Times bestselling author of Nothing Between Us and Need You Tonight… Oakley Easton wants two things: to be a good mom to her daughter and to ditch her less than ideal night job. Hooking up with bad boy drummer Pike Ryland? Not on the agenda. She needs a promotion. Not sex, tattoos and rock ’n’ roll.Pike isn’t about to let Ms. Prim and Proper shut him down so easily, especially when he stumbles upon Oakley’s sexy night job. She’s only playing a role on those late night calls with strangers, but when he gets her on the line, all bets are off. He won’t stop until that sultry voice is calling his name for real.But as they move from anonymous fantasies in the dark to the flesh-on-hot-flesh reality of the bedroom, the risk of falling in love becomes all too high. And the safe, quiet world that Oakley’s worked so hard to create is about to be exposed to the one person who could ruin it all.

When I first got back into reading romance a few years ago, one of the authors recommended to me was Roni Loren. The book was CRASH INTO YOU, an erotic romance thriller, and I was hooked from the start. Seven books and one serial later, CALL ON ME continues the Loving On The Edge series tradition of mixing erotic romance with suspense, even as the suspense here is significantly less violent and more nuanced than in the first book that started it all.

Readers of this series already got to meet Pike Ryland, the super sexy and successful rock drummer, when he was hanging out with his buddy Foster as that gentlemen discovered lasting love with the lady next door. Now Pike is about to find his own HEA where he least expects it, but only once he realizes the rock star persona that brings the ladies to his door is what’s pushing her away.

Oakley Easton went through the music industry wringer and came out on the other side a different person. The last thing she needs in her precariously balanced life is a musician, even if he’s the first guy to give her any kind of thrill since before her daughter was born. Still, neither Pike nor their attraction can be denied, and as Pike and Oakley grow closer, so does her most feared danger following in his wake.

One of my favorite things about CALL ON ME was how the suspense wasn’t the usual external murderous threat existing solely to push the hero and heroine closer. It was more about all the fears Oakley had to confront every day, constantly juggling her time between dealing with her daughter’s needs and finding money to pay all their bills. Even when Oakley’s greatest nightmare finally comes true, she confronts the peril directly, singlehandedly saving both her daughter and herself with Pike serving only as an approving bystander.

The other great feature of this book is also what I’ve loved in each book of this series — a heroine who embraces her sexuality fully as the hero comes to terms with how his own wants and desires can fit within the relationship they are building together. Oakley may not advertise the nature of her second job, but she’s also not going to apologize for it to Pike or anyone else, because she knows best what she can do to earn more money while raising her daughter without anyone else’s help. It’s Pike who needs to grow up and see Oakley as the woman strong enough to be both his submissive and his love without reservations or regrets, and the result made me both swoony and teary-eyed. CALL ON ME shows that this long running series is just as good now as it ever was. I’m not sure what the next book will bring, but I can’t wait to read it.

four-stars

Review and Giveaway: The Collar by Tara Sue Me

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
Review and Giveaway: The Collar by Tara Sue MeThe Collar by Tara Sue Me
Series: Submissive #5
Also in this series: The Enticement
Also by this author: The Enticement
Published by Penguin, Penguin Publishing Group on July 7th 2015
Genres: BDSM, Contemporary, Contemporary Women, Erotic Romance, Fiction, Romance
Pages: 336
Goodreads
four-stars
The New York Times bestselling author of The Submissive returns with a scintillating new tale about power, danger, and jaw-dropping passion.... Nathaniel and Abby are struggling to navigate the challenging waters of their own relationship, when they get a surprising phone call from their partners in play, Dena and Jeff, who are in need of a helping hand… Seven years ago, blonde, beautiful lawyer Dena Jenkins was tired of her carefully controlled life. Desperate for something exhilarating to help her escape the pressures of her demanding job and her senator father, she joined a steamy, local BDSM club as a submissive. There she met brooding Dominant, Jeff. The attraction between them was undeniable, and, despite Dena’s doubts, they couldn’t stay away from each other. Except, as the years have passed, their blazing connection has proven difficult to maintain. Dena and Jeff have a history they’d rather forget, but Dena can’t let go of the past, and Jeff is ready to move across the country to give her space. Now, to save their passion, they’ll have to rediscover what it means to trust each other—and give themselves to each other completely.

https://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/984c05ae24/

THE COLLAR is the fifth book in Tara Sue Me’s excellent Submissive series and the first where the main focus is not on the couple who have been the center of the ongoing story. Jeff and Dena were both introduced briefly in the previous book, THE ENTICEMENT. Now in THE COLLAR we get to discover their backstory and see them find their way back to each other again with the help of Nathaniel and Abby, as well as the somewhat opportune timing of a surprise stalker.

It’s clear from the start that Jeff and Dena were meant to be together before something terrible came between them. At first I thought the problem would be related to the different worlds from which they came. Dena was raised in the lap of luxury and privilege thanks to her father’s elevated status in political circles. Jeff’s origins were much lower and less pleasant, and it seemed as though he’d never stop thinking he wasn’t worthy of her. Yet when they met at the local BDSM club, her submissive nature and his Dominance fit perfectly together, and the love they found together seemed invincible. But now it’s years later and whatever broke them up still appears to be keeping them apart. As much as it kills him inside, Jeff is getting ready to move far away for good, in the mistaken belief that it’s the best decision for them both. It’s only when a sudden threat to Dena’s safety appears that Jeff realizes he must stay and protect her at any cost, even if it means reopening old wounds and confronting what stands between them once and for all.

I was concerned at first when I realized Nathaniel and Abby would not be the central couple of THE COLLAR but was soon placated by how seamlessly their story is woven into that of their new friends Jeff and Dena. We already know how great Jeff is by how he saved Abby in THE ENTICEMENT and the great trust that Nathaniel has placed in him. We also soon see that Dena isn’t the entitled rich girl one might expect with her upbringing. It’s only when Dena is with Jeff that she’s truly happy, and the same is true for him. But it’s quite obvious that the pain that stood between them would have won if it wasn’t for the person who suddenly starts threatening Dena’s life.

Normally when this type of suspense plot is used to bring the hero and heroine together I get worried that it will take over entirely, but in THE COLLAR the suspense serves the romance, not vice versa. Even when I was able to figure out the culprit, I didn’t much care because that subplot was just the excuse needed to keep Jeff with Dena long enough for them to deal with all the misunderstandings that had kept them apart. So much of THE COLLAR is Jeff and Dena recalling the past and working together to get beyond it, and that’s what I loved the most about this book. But we still get enough Nathaniel and Abby so that it’s their story as well, and that’s why THE COLLAR is yet another great entry in the Submissive series for me.

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four-stars

Review and Giveaway: Caged by Lorelei James

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
Review and Giveaway:  Caged by Lorelei JamesCaged by Lorelei James
Also by this author: Unraveled
Published by Penguin on July 14th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Contemporary Women, Fiction, General, Romance
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Goodreads
four-stars
In the searing fourth novel in the Mastered Series, following Unraveled, only one woman can set a hardened fighter free from his past.… In order to survive a life of tragedy, Deacon McConnell embraced his roughest edges and learned to fight on the streets. Then a life-changing jujitsu seminar led by Sensei Ronin Black led Deacon to become a professional fighter. With his muscular physique and his body covered in tattoos and scars, the MMA fighter defines mean, both on and off the mat. But everything changes when innocent Molly Calloway signs up for his kickboxing class. Molly is Deacon’s opposite in every way: She’s kind, sweet, thoughtful, and educated. After a heated argument between them turns into a passionate encounter, Deacon realizes Molly is eager to experience more, and she looks to him to take her to the darker edge of lust.... The last thing either of them expects is how deeply their lives will be thrown upside down by the passion they find together.

CAGED is the latest entry in the Mastered series by Lorelei James and one that continues the upward swing of my enjoyment in a series that started out rough for me but keeps getting better. In this book, we finally get an HEA for two previously introduced secondary characters, including the one whose initial violent encounter was the starting point for the entire series.

Deacon McConnell is famous in the local mixed martial arts community for his ability to read and exploit his opponents’ weaknesses in direct competition. Yet when it comes to making a claim on the woman he’s wanted for years, he’s still unable to follow through. Molly Calloway came to the dojo at her best friend Amery’s insistence for self-defense training after an attack that threatened her physical safety. Now that Amery is happily married to the dojo’s Sensei, it’s Molly who’s still working on defending herself from both physical and emotional threats, the greatest of which is her undeniable pull toward Deacon. When Molly finally confronts Deacon in the unlikeliest of places, the simmering attraction between them flares up hot and strong. But as demons from both their individual pasts threaten to come between them, it will take more than physical desire to stay true to themselves and each other to their happy ending together.

I’ll admit that I hadn’t paid much attention to either of these characters in previous books, other than when Molly was being stubborn about not wanting to go to the dojo when Amery agreed to participate in classes with her there in the first book. But CAGED has fleshed out the backgrounds of both Molly and Deacon almost to the point of overload, and shown that they do have more in common than just irresistible sexual chemistry. Both of them were rejected in almost ridiculously horrific ways by the people who should have loved and protected them, and each has managed to not just survive but succeed in spite of all that. It was wonderful to see them have each other’s backs as they had to re-fight their family battles one last time, even when the going got rough and inevitably faltered along the way.

The only part that didn’t quite work for me in CAGED was the early continuing emphasis on Deacon’s various confrontations with his trainer and a new but ultimately temporary competitor, and the constant misunderstandings from Ronin’s lack of transparency in his dojo management. I wasn’t sure who was supposed to be the bad guy and who wasn’t, and was still confused right up until a few pages of explanation much later in the book when Ronin deigned to make things clearer to both Deacon and the reader. Frankly, anything that isn’t directly related to the romance is of lesser interest for me, so I was happiest when Molly and Deacon were front and center together. Their personalities complemented each other well when they didn’t let external forces become a distraction, and the obstacles in their path to their HEA helped them grow emotionally as individuals and a couple. By the end of CAGED, I knew that they were going to stay together no matter what, and that it was the best possible ending for both of them. I can only hope that they and we as the readers will continue to enjoy seeing other members of the Black Arts dojo family find their own happiness as the Bound series continues.

Berkley / NAL Romance is giving one lucky commenter a free copy of the first two books in the Bound series (BOUND and UNWOUND). Just leave a comment here at the blog on this review between now (7/9/2015) and a week from now (7/16/2015). The winner will be drawn at random from all comments on this post and will receive this prize directly from the publisher.

four-stars